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Chinese pangolin

Manis pentadactyla


Pangolins are the most trafficked mammals in the world, and the Chinese pangolin may be the most endangered of them all.

The species is heavily hunted both within China, and its other range states, for its meat, which is considered a delicacy, as well as for its skin and scales which are used in traditional medicine.

In Chinese legend pangolins are said to travel all around the world underground, and in the Cantonese language the name for pangolins translates to “the animal that digs through the mountain,” or “Chun-shua-cap,” which translates to “scaly hill-borer.”

Pangolins have convergently evolved many features that are similar to ant eaters, and aardvarks;  such as long, powerful claws for ripping open ant and termite nests, and a long, thin sticky tongue – which can measure up to 40cm in length for scooping up its prey. Like other pangolins, the Chinese pangolin is a good swimmer.

Despite the similarities to other mammals adapted to eating ants and termites, they are not closely related with any of these groups – with the 8 species of pangolin being the only extant members of their family Manidae, and even their order, Pholidota. Chinese pangolins are of genetic interest due to the differing diploid number of chromosomes found in animals from different areas of their distribution.

  • Order: Pholidota
  • Family: Manidae
  • Population: Unknown
  • Trend: decreasing
  • Size: 40–58 cm
  • Weight: 2-10kg

EDGE Score

EDGE Score: 14.27 (?)
ED Score: 15.64 (?)
GE / IUCN Red List (?)
Not Evaluated Data Deficient Least Concern Near Threatened Vulnerable Endangered Critically Endangered Extinct in the Wild Extinct


The Chinese pangolins current range has undergone drastic changes due to poaching pressure, and its distribution is therefore not well known. It was previously widespread, occurring in southern China, Hainan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, the Himalayan foothills in eastern Nepal, Bhutan and northern India, northeastern Bangladesh, across Myanmar to northern Lao PDR and northern Vietnam, northern and northeastern Thailand.

Habitat and Ecology

They are found in a wide range of habitats, including primary and secondary tropical forests, limestone forests, bamboo forests, grasslands and agricultural fields. They have poor vision, and therefore rely on their sense of smell to locate their prey, which consists exclusively of ants and termites. They are nocturnal, solitary, and like other pangolins, the Chinese pangolin is a good swimmer.

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Conservation Actions

For each key category of conservation action, we calculated a conservation attention score based on expert information. In this graph, a higher score means the action is being carried out more intensively over more of the species range. The colour shows how important each action is considered to be for the conservation of this species.

Engaging stakeholders
Addressing threats
Status of knowledge
Management plan
Capacity building
Behaviour change
Awareness raising
  Score: 100 means the activity occurs at high level across more than 75% of the species range
Very Low

Overall Conservation Attention

We combined all of the expert information on conservation actions to calculate an overall conservation attention score for this species. Please help us to reach our goal of establishing dedicated conservation attention at “High” levels for all EDGE species.

Very Low Low Medium High

More information

Recent studies have grouped all possible conservation activities for any species into nine key categories (Washington et. al 2015). For each action, we asked experts for each species to assess the extent to which that action is being carried out and how much of the species’ range that action occurs in. For each action we used these two pieces of information to calculate the conservation attention score per action. A score of 100 means that the action is being carried out to a high level across at least 75% of the species range. We then combined the scores for all actions into an overall conservation attention score for the species. The experts also judged how important each category was to the conservation of that particular species.

This wordcloud illustrates the threats facing this species. The size of each word indicates the extent of a species range that is affected by that threat (larger size means a greater area is affected). The colour of the word indicates how much that threat impacts the species (darker shades of red mean the threat is more severe).

Habitat change Roads/Rail Hunting

Threat wordcloud key:

Small area affected
Large area affected
Least severe
Most severe
Severity unknown
Source: The IUCN List of Threatened Species. Version 2017.1.
Available at:

Download the survival blueprint for this species below. Each survival blueprint is compiled by an EDGE fellow working on the species with input from collaborators and stakeholders. The survival blueprint provides a status review (information on the distribution, protection status, habitat & ecology, threat and stakeholder analysis) and more information on the action programme listed here. 

Vision (30-50 years)

Healthy and viable population of Chinese pangolin exist in all regions across its natural range as iconic flagship species where poaching and illegal trade doesn’t exist, climate induced disasters are taken into consideration and human beings started to get benefit from organic food, sustainable tourism and climate smart society

Goal (5-10 years)

Local and regional communities initiated proactive role to conserve pangolin habitat, minimize poaching/illegal trade establishing pangolin conservation strongholds across its natural range and played adaptive role to address climate induced disasters making climate smart society considering pangolin as iconic flagship species.


Prepare a distribution map of pangolin for Nepal and identify pangolin strongholds Critical
National pangolin conservation action plan produced and endorsed Critical
Study on habitat suitability for Chinese pangolin in Nepal Critical
Study on ecology of Chinese pangolin Critical
Education and outreach on importance of pangolin conservation at local and national level Critical
Establish community based pangolin conservation areas (in strongholds) Critical
Establish community based anti-poaching units or pangolin conservation committees and mobilize them for conservation work in community based pangolin conservation areas Critical
Train and equip local youths for pangolin monitoring in strongholds Critical
Ensure action based pangolin conservation in strongholds High
Develop national and international cooperation between scientific and expert organizations/individuals working on research and conservation of Chinese pangolin High
Implement livelihood interventions in community based pangolin conservation strongholds High
Develop a seizure database system of pangolins for Nepal High
Develop pangolin price index at local, cluster and national level Medium
Implement programs to minimize climate induced disasters in pangolin strongholds Medium

Ambika Khatiwada

  • Project name: Conservation of Chinese Pangolin in Nangkholyang and Dokhu villages of Taplejung District, Nepal
  • Project site: Taplejung District, Nepal
  • Active: 2012 - 2015
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